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COL Tread carefully about contacting 'son'

Dear Annie: Fifty years ago, I believe I sired a child. "Helen" and I were married to others when she became pregnant. We planned to be together, but then my wife became pregnant. Helen and her husband divorced, and she remarried a few years later. Some time after that, I also divorced. I have not seen the child since he was a year old.

Helen and I kept in touch until about three years ago. The pictures she sent me during that time make me believe this boy is my child. The last time I talked to Helen, she was quite ill and heavily sedated. I stopped calling when she was never the one who picked up the phone. For all I know, she may be dead.

I have the child's address. Would it be harmful to contact him? Is it just an ego trip for me? I have no familial diseases to reveal. And the "father" may be alive. If he is and I shake things up, I might interfere with the child's inheritance. Several years ago, when I suggested putting the child in my will, Helen said it was not necessary, because the "father is very wealthy."

I have told my current wife all of this, and she thinks I should let well enough alone. Of course, she may have selfish motives. I, too, am wealthy, and leaving money to the child means less for her. I would love to see this boy. Should I? -- No Name

Dear No Name: This "boy" is 50 years old, and he may not be your child. First, find out if Helen is still living, not only to clear up the paternity question, but also to see how she's doing. She is, after all, a friend. Seeking that information also will allow you to discover if Dad is in the picture.

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If this 50-year-old man has no living parents, you can contact him. Yes, it would rock his world, but it also may answer some questions for him. Proof will require a DNA test, however, and if he chooses not to cooperate, we hope you will let the matter drop. If his father is still alive, you might contact a lawyer and prepare a letter with the pertinent information and perhaps a hair sample, to be given to the child upon your death or the death of his father. That way, at least the child will have the option of knowing the truth, but the decision will be his.

Dear Annie: How can I get my husband to stop watching TV programs containing horror and violence when our 9-year-old daughter is around? -- Ma Barker

Dear Ma Barker: If you cannot convince your husband that such programming is not in his child's best interest, your daughter should not be in the same room when he is watching TV. She can be in her own room, doing homework in the kitchen or chatting on the computer, or Dad can get a TV for his bedroom. You might also suggest that Dad tape his favorite programs and watch them later.

You can discuss these programs with your daughter so she understands that the violence is acting, but in the real world, there would be tragic consequences for such behavior. (If you talk loudly enough, perhaps Dad will change the channel.)

Dear Annie: I read the letter from "Looking for Help in the Midwest," who said her friend's son had self-esteem issues and wanted to hurt himself. That letter reminded me so much of myself. I'm 17 now, but when I was in grade school, I had extremely low self-esteem. I cried for hours and tried to hurt myself. It wasn't ADHD. It was because the kids at school teased and berated me. When I was 13, the harassment became so intense that my parents transferred me to another school. I have flourished here and have great friends. This could be the boy's real problem. -- Happier Now

Dear Happier: Thank you for pointing out that teasing and bullying can cause all sorts of problems and the parents may not be aware of the underlying cause.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailboxcomcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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